My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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Ask the Dietitian (Student Edition)

Welcome back to My RD Journey! I am finally getting into a groove of teaching and running my business. I am looking forward to the holiday break when I can work on planning some more online packages for my clients. My goal is to have a fully functional online business with products and downloadable content to lighten up my face-to-face service. All in good time.

Over the past week, I moderated two career panels with Dietitians for students at college-level. The students had a lot of great questions and it prompted me to expand more on some of the topics in today’s blog. I have been thinking about doing an, “Ask the Dietitian,” within my blog anyways and I figure that this would be a great topic to start with!

How do you get experience?
For both the dietetic internship (DI) and future jobs, experience is going to be key. For RDs-to-be, you can start with your local hospital. See if you can land a position as a food and nutrition aide in the kitchen. If no-one is hiring, look at volunteer positions. Can you volunteer at a hospital, long-term care facility, food bank, food pantry, soup kitchen, etc? Reach out to local RDs and see if you can shadow them or help on a project (like a class). One really awesome thing that a fellow RD said this past week was that it isn’t necessarily the type of position you get, but the experience YOU gain from it and how that can be related back to dietetics. Let’s say you are a server at a restaurant. You could be gaining customer service skills and food safety knowledge; all of which are critical in dietetics.

How do you deal with the monetary aspect of the DI?
Start saving now! Put away that Birthday money. Put your tips and checks right into the bank. Think twice about spending on frivolous items.  I didn’t realize until my Sophomore year of college that there was a DI AND it was unpaid AND we paid them AND it was after graduation. I worked since I was 14-years-old, and I was used to putting away the money I earned, since my parents were huge on saving (thank you Mom and Dad). Besides saving, look at internships that offer financial aide, scholarships, and/or stipends. Also, do some research into scholarships from the Academy of Nutrition and your state and local groups. From what I hear about these scholarships, they often have minimal students even apply, so your chances are good!

Can you work during the DI?
Going along with the previous question, yes you can work during the DI. A lot of internships will tell you not to do so; however, it really depends on your work ethic and level of time management. I worked weekends during my DI and the occasional weeknight. I know other interns at the time, who could barely keep up with the workload, let alone a side job. If you can handle a job on the side, without sacrificing your learning experience, great. Just remember to be clear with your boss on what the DI entails. Look for positions that are flexible with hours and can accommodate a changing intern schedule. Even if you don’t work during your DI, you still want to make sure you plan your time well to accomplish all of your competencies and assignments.

What are some of the top skills for the DI and career that you feel would lead to success? 
I wrote a blog on this topic a few months back; however, I want to hone in on one really key point, “Never burn a bridge in dietetics.” Really though, the world of dietetics is so small! The dietitian who took my position at my last job before starting my practice full-time had interned with a Dietitian I knew and went to school with. I learned about my current teaching role from an RD I connected with about a year ago and kept in contact with on social media/listservs. I would have never known about the teaching position or maybe even gotten the job had I not been friendly with her. So, even if you don’t think you will need a connection, always keep it open and professional. Save business cards. Follow-up with old preceptors. You never know when you might run into that person again!

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Feel free to post a comment with your question for the Dietitian! I will answer and include in my next “Ask the Dietitian” post! 

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Top 10 Tips for a Successful Dietetic Intern

I am going to switch gears for a bit from my usual Dietitian-related tips to a focus on dietetic internships. I have been a preceptor for the last 2.5 years and it has been awesome. I would highly suggest any professional to take on an intern at some point in their career. It is such an eye-opening experience when you are teaching and basically helping to mold someone into their profession.

Over the last month, I have had a lot of interns reach out to me to be their preceptor for 2017-2018 dietetic internships. Only a small handful I ended up meeting with and agreeing to become their preceptor. In the process, I had a few asking what the qualities are of a “good” intern. While I hate using the word “good,” I do like thinking in terms of success. The top 10 list I complied below is a blend of tips from my own experience as being a preceptor plus what I observed during my internship (way back when).

Tip #1 – Show up on Time
This is an absolute must. There is nothing more off-putting than a late intern. Get up earlier and never assume traffic will be great (especially if you have a long drive). My practice is super busy and I am usually on a time crunch, especially if running a class that day, so tardiness just won’t cut it for me. If you do happen to be running late for some reason, always contact your preceptor. Let them know why you are running behind and your estimated time of arrival.

Tip #2 – Always Dress to Impress
I am sure you have heard this one a lot, but take it seriously. I have had interns show up for meetings with me in jeans (and not nice looking ones)! It is way better to be overdressed for a meeting. For your actual rotations, always contact your preceptor and find out the dress code. For my practice, there are days where we need to get dressy for classes or seeing clients. Other days, I am just working out of my home so there is no sense in getting all dolled up to just sit around and work.

Tip #3 – Come Prepared 
One of my biggest pet peeves is when an intern shows up with absolutely no work to do, no outlines or class assignments printed (or available on their computer), or nothing to do for downtime. Whether you are heading in for an initial interview with a potential preceptor or your first day on-site be PREPARED! Have an idea of what your rotation entails. What assignments do you need to accomplish? What tasks need to be done? Don’t assume your preceptor will have that information. Set aside time to speak with them to review everything. Also, make sure you have something to do when there is downtime. This could be reading journals, working on assignments, or studying for your RD exam. Again, this is a good time to ask your preceptor what the expectation is. Do they want you to be working on something for them? Do they want you to work on assignments? Lastly, don’t sit on your phone while you wait. Honestly, that makes me think you don’t take nutrition or the rotation seriously enough.

Tip #4 – Engage and Ask Questions
I always have interns tell me they don’t want to bother me with questions. I love questions and to me, this means you are excited and passionate about nutrition. One thing about questions is to time them correctly. If your preceptor is in the middle of a call or email, that might not be the best time to ask a question. Again, find out what they prefer for this too. I had preceptors who would tell me to interrupt them with anything. I had others that told me if they are busy to let them be. Asking questions about something is not a sign of weakness at all, instead it shows me that you are willing to learn, grow, and challenge yourself. If anyone ever gives you heat for asking questions, apologize maybe for your timing, but never, ever, apologize for your curiosity and desire to learn.

Tip #5 – Be Organized
For anyone that knows me personally, they know I am highly organized. My expectation for organizational skills is probably much higher than most professionals; however, it is for good reasons. My practice involves just me. I do all the scheduling, client-seeing, billing, follow-ups, emails, etc. I need to be organized to make sure everything gets done in a timely (and good quality) manner. While I don’t expect my interns to be like me, having some sense of organization will really suit you well.

Tip #6 – Give Good Quality Work
If your preceptor gives you an assignment or task to work on, take it seriously and take your time to produce good quality work. Don’t just slap something together to get it done. Do the research, invest the time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Tip #7 – Respond to Emails (Professionally)
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have had a lot of interns reach out to me as a preceptor in the last month, yet I only interviewed a few for my practice. A lot of this was due to that first impression I received via email. Frantic and desperate emails were red flags for me. I questioned if they prepared at all for the internship (i.e. finding preceptors). Again, are you taking this seriously? This makes me think about lack of organizational skills. Also, if students reached out for a clinical rotation with me or with incorrect information about my practice, another red flag went up. Obviously, you did not do your research very thoroughly, so this makes me think that attentiveness to detail is not a strong suit. I have also had potential interns reach out to me, interview with me, not get matched and never let me know (though they said they would). While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I spent the time setting up an interview with you, filling out paperwork and blocking your rotations in my calendar. At least have the decency to let me know if you will actually be coming. I had these same students reach back out again later when they did get an internship and needless to say, I was hesitant to work with them. While some of my perceptions could be totally off from the actual reality of the situation, that first impression is everything for me in choosing an intern that will work well in my practice. After all, this is my business and I rely on it for my income.

Tip #8 – Be Aware of Preceptor’s Time (Assignments)
Your preceptors are taking the time to work with you during your internship, so as much as you can make that process easier for them, the better. This means being on-top of your assignments and tasks, which goes along with being organized. Plan out when you will do your assignments and don’t wait until the last minute and then expect your preceptor to work it all out for you.

Tip #9 – Be Open to Learning
You might not love every rotation and you might already have an idea of which area of dietetics you want to go into. This doesn’t mean you should just do the bare minimum for your other rotations. Even if you know clinical is not for you, engage and ask questions. You never know when you might find a new passion or learning something exciting.

Tip #10 – Be Open to Feedback 
One of the most important pieces of any profession is getting and giving feedback. Feedback is crucial since it can help to shape you into a better professional. Always be open to getting feedback from your preceptor, even if it is negative. After such, do something about it! If your organization is slacking, how can you improve? Get used to giving feedback as well. Don’t just say everything is great when it isn’t. You can always attempt to improve a situation (or work environment) by giving constructive feedback. Are you frustrated with the lack of time your preceptor is giving you for questions? Are you not learning enough from them? See if you can compromise or come up with a solution that will work for the both of you. I always say that the worst that can happen is someone says, “no” but at least you know that you tried.

I hope this list helps any current or potential interns out there to enhance their experience in the dietetic internship. Good luck to everyone beginning their internships and leave a comment to let me know how yours is going!

For more tips on Preparing for Your Internship, check out the BLOG 

For more information on joining the AND Preceptor Database, click the LINK.


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My First Week in Full-Time Private Practice

Well, I have officially made it through my first week in full-time private practice! It felt so odd to say to people that I was my own boss. It felt even weirder to not have to go to one facility (my full-time job) for 40 hours/week. It felt totally different for me to JUST do my practice and not juggle it with my full-time gig. I would see clients here or there and chunk everything I needed to follow-up on (insurance claims, billing, etc) on my days off. It felt good to just focus my time and energy on my practice for once.

I was lucky to have an intern with me for my first week. She was with me during my full-time job and still has 2 weeks left to go during her dietetic internship. I love having interns; however, I especially loved having this one since she was able to be apart of my transition to full-time private practice (also, she’s pretty awesome). Since I work out of my home, there was always the want to stop what I was doing to do the dishes or various house chores. I felt like having an intern with me really pushed me to be productive in the hours of the day that she was there. Once she moves on to her clinical rotation, I am planning to translate this type of work schedule into my own. I want to set up “hours” I am working and really stick to it. Everything else can wait!

After my first week, I started to think more on what kind of schedule I wanted to build for myself. While I don’t have an exact plan just yet, I do know that I want to keep 3-4 days of clients/classes and at least one full day dedicated to insurance calls and office type work. I already know the days that I see clients back-to-back that I don’t get much else done on the back end of things.

One huge thing I realized this week is just how much my email/notifications are distractions! Every time my phone went off, I checked the email in case I needed to respond. This was a huge concentration breaker. I took some advice from friends/family/books and set aside windows of time where I would answer emails. Usually, I check email in the AM, mid-day, and at night (7pm or so). I want to cut this back to twice per day instead. I find I am way more productive if I focus on one task at a time instead of just switching back and forth. This has been harder to stick with than I thought, but turning my sound off on my phone really helped!

One last thing I learned from my first week was that I needed to prioritize and not overbook myself. I would stick 15-20 items on my list to do for the day and only end up getting to maybe 10-15 of them. I would never know how long I would be on hold with an insurance company for a claim status, or what questions my intern would ask, or what phone calls came in. Though I would get a lot accomplished, I still was bummed I couldn’t do EVERYTHING. Honestly, that is so unrealistic! Not only am I putting undue pressure on myself, but I am also making my daily goals ones that I know I won’t reach. For this week, I decided to make a priority list and a to-do list. My goal was to complete the priority list and if possible do 1-2 items on the to-do list. This was way more manageable and I felt more accomplished at the end of the day.

I have been keeping a journal of everything I have learned thus far, so each week I will share with you my tips, tricks, slip-ups, and more!


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Top 10 Dietitian Misconceptions

“Dietitian…that means you make meal plans, right?” (Said by someone I encountered at my one job). If you are a fellow Dietitian (or Nutrition major), you have probably heard that phrase, or something like it, before.  If you haven’t, just wait and see 🙂

Here are my top 10 things I hear and chuckle at (I’ve gotten over being annoyed) that are complete misconceptions (at least for me)!

#1 Do you only eat salad?
Nope. I eat meat, veggies, fruit, etc. I do enjoy a salad and I will often eat from the salad bar at work. And by salad I mean a small amount of lettuce with a crazy amount of toppings (mushrooms, broccoli, croutons, chicken, chickpeas, etc). But again, I don’t just eat it because I am a RD, I actually like it.

#2 I am not judging what you eat.
People will literally say to me, “Oh, I know what I am eating is bad for me, I was just really hungry.” I could care less what you eat! I just came into the room to make phone calls for work. Along with me not judging what you eat, you can refrain from hiding your food from me. One day at work, I was walking down the hall and a lady with a bag of fast food literally put it behind her back when I walked by. After I said hello, she looked genuinely embarrassed and hurried off. TRUE STORY.

#3 Please stop judging what I eat.
I love the occasional ice cream (with my Lactase pills of course) or chips. Who doesn’t?! I really don’t like when people see me eating something “unhealthy” and say, “Wow, you’re eating chips?” Yes, I am human and do enjoy these pleasures once in a while.

#4 Now that you are a RD, can you write me a meal plan?
Much to what people think, I don’t just write meal plans. Actually, I rarely write out a meal plan for someone. I generally like to give people the tools to be able to choose foods that fit their dietary needs. Plus, if I told you what to eat for each meal, chances are that would become very boring. I also don’t like putting people on “diets” or talking about them for that matter. I am all about healthy lifestyle changes, which do not fall in line with a meal plan.

#5 So, you are not going to tell me to cut out my favorite foods?
This goes along with my whole no-diet-thing. Generally, when you cut foods out, you tend to miss them. This can lead to binge-eating and “going off the diet” wagon. In my experience, with both counseling and my own life, it is better to keep in your favorite foods and just eat them in small portions.

#6 Yes, I did go through 4 years of school, an unpaid internship, and a final exam.
A lot of people I talk to think that I became a RD once I graduated. I wish! After getting my bachelors, I had to apply to internships, get accepted, pay large amounts of money, and then sell my soul for 9 months (not counting the lack of life for the 2 months I spent studying to take my exam). Dramatic enough for you? But seriously, becoming an RD is not easy and props to anyone who is embarking on the journey.

#7 Dietitian and Nutritionist are not the same.
Nutritionist is not a licensed term, at least in PA. Basically, anyone could call themselves a Nutritionist. A Certified Nutritionist has more credentials than a regular Nutritionist; however, Registered Dietitian trumps all 🙂

#8 I don’t know everything and I am not afraid to say it.
It surprised me how people are shocked that I don’t know something specific about a food. Example: “What are baby romanesco good for?” First of all, I have never even seen one until now. Second, I don’t know all the nutrients in every fruit and vegetable. Yes, green leafy veggies have Vitamin K and red/orange veggies have Vitamin A; however, I mainly just tell people to eat fruits and vegetables. You don’t really need to focus on eating specific ones for specific nutrients. That is so complicated! Make it simple and just choose a variety. In the words of many RDs, “Color your plate.”

#9 Every counseling session should be standardized to cover the same thing. 
I don’t know where people got that idea from; however, none of my counseling sessions are ever the same. You don’t talk to a 60-year-old the same way you talk to a 12-year-old. You can standardize the process (aka you have the same introduction of yourself, similar forms, same waiver, etc); however, what is covered in a session is completed client-centered. I not only learned that in school; however, leading counseling sessions has taught me to be super flexible. I might want to cover protein with someone (seeing as they don’t eat enough), but they get into their binge eating habits. That last bit of information is more important to cover first. Counseling is all about getting to know your client and helping them to reach the goals they want to set.

#10 “You don’t need to see a Dietitian because you are not fat.”
Just because you are thin does not mean you are healthy. As a Dietitian, I help people gain weight (if they are underweight or looking to gain muscle), lose weight, and maintain their weight. People come see me for all different reasons. Plus, a skinny person might have horrible eating habits that lead them to become Diabetic or deficient in certain nutrients. Again, I am here to help the client reach their goals. I never judge by body size because it is such a horrible indicator of actual health.

These 10 items are all things I have encountered between my jobs, friends, family, community, etc. You may have more to add to this list or things to change (depending on your situation).

Hope you enjoyed the read. Stay tuned for my next blog “10 Tips for Conducting a Recipe Demo.”

PS: This is a Baby Romanesco. Tastes and looks like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower!


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Top 10 Dietitian Misconceptions

“Dietitian…that means you make meal plans, right?” (Said by someone I encountered at my one job). If you are a fellow Dietitian (or Nutrition major), you have probably heard that phrase, or something like it, before.  If you haven’t, just wait and see 🙂

Here are my top 10 things I hear and chuckle at (I’ve gotten over being annoyed) that are complete misconceptions (at least for me)!

#1 Do you only eat salad?
Nope. I eat meat, veggies, fruit, etc. I do enjoy a salad and I will often eat from the salad bar at work. And by salad I mean a small amount of lettuce with a crazy amount of toppings (mushrooms, broccoli, croutons, chicken, chickpeas, etc). But again, I don’t just eat it because I am a RD, I actually like it.

#2 I am not judging what you eat.
People will literally say to me, “Oh, I know what I am eating is bad for me, I was just really hungry.” I could care less what you eat! I just came into the room to make phone calls for work. Along with me not judging what you eat, you can refrain from hiding your food from me. One day at work, I was walking down the hall and a lady with a bag of fast food literally put it behind her back when I walked by. After I said hello, she looked genuinely embarrassed and hurried off. TRUE STORY.

#3 Please stop judging what I eat.
I love the occasional ice cream (with my Lactase pills of course) or chips. Who doesn’t?! I really don’t like when people see me eating something “unhealthy” and say, “Wow, you’re eating chips?” Yes, I am human and do enjoy these pleasures once in a while.

#4 Now that you are a RD, can you write me a meal plan?
Much to what people think, I don’t just write meal plans. Actually, I rarely write out a meal plan for someone. I generally like to give people the tools to be able to choose foods that fit their dietary needs. Plus, if I told you what to eat for each meal, chances are that would become very boring. I also don’t like putting people on “diets” or talking about them for that matter. I am all about healthy lifestyle changes, which do not fall in line with a meal plan.

#5 So, you are not going to tell me to cut out my favorite foods?
This goes along with my whole no-diet-thing. Generally, when you cut foods out, you tend to miss them. This can lead to binge-eating and “going off the diet” wagon. In my experience, with both counseling and my own life, it is better to keep in your favorite foods and just eat them in small portions.

#6 Yes, I did go through 4 years of school, an unpaid internship, and a final exam.
A lot of people I talk to think that I became a RD once I graduated. I wish! After getting my bachelors, I had to apply to internships, get accepted, pay large amounts of money, and then sell my soul for 9 months (not counting the lack of life for the 2 months I spent studying to take my exam). Dramatic enough for you? But seriously, becoming an RD is not easy and props to anyone who is embarking on the journey.

#7 Dietitian and Nutritionist are not the same.
Nutritionist is not a licensed term, at least in PA. Basically, anyone could call themselves a Nutritionist. A Certified Nutritionist has more credentials than a regular Nutritionist; however, Registered Dietitian trumps all 🙂

#8 I don’t know everything and I am not afraid to say it.
It surprised me how people are shocked that I don’t know something specific about a food. Example: “What are baby romanesco good for?” First of all, I have never even seen one until now. Second, I don’t know all the nutrients in every fruit and vegetable. Yes, green leafy veggies have Vitamin K and red/orange veggies have Vitamin A; however, I mainly just tell people to eat fruits and vegetables. You don’t really need to focus on eating specific ones for specific nutrients. That is so complicated! Make it simple and just choose a variety. In the words of many RDs, “Color your plate.”

#9 Every counseling session should be standardized to cover the same thing. 
I don’t know where people got that idea from; however, none of my counseling sessions are ever the same. You don’t talk to a 60-year-old the same way you talk to a 12-year-old. You can standardize the process (aka you have the same introduction of yourself, similar forms, same waiver, etc); however, what is covered in a session is completed client-centered. I not only learned that in school; however, leading counseling sessions has taught me to be super flexible. I might want to cover protein with someone (seeing as they don’t eat enough), but they get into their binge eating habits. That last bit of information is more important to cover first. Counseling is all about getting to know your client and helping them to reach the goals they want to set.

#10 “You don’t need to see a Dietitian because you are not fat.”
Just because you are thin does not mean you are healthy. As a Dietitian, I help people gain weight (if they are underweight or looking to gain muscle), lose weight, and maintain their weight. People come see me for all different reasons. Plus, a skinny person might have horrible eating habits that lead them to become Diabetic or deficient in certain nutrients. Again, I am here to help the client reach their goals. I never judge by body size because it is such a horrible indicator of actual health.

These 10 items are all things I have encountered between my jobs, friends, family, community, etc. You may have more to add to this list or things to change (depending on your situation).

Hope you enjoyed the read. Stay tuned for my next blog “10 Tips for Conducting a Recipe Demo.”

PS: This is a Baby Romanesco. Tastes and looks like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower!

 


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Life After the RD Exam

So what exactly happens after you are a RD/RDN? For one, you feel relieved and not sure what to do with all the free time you have (if you are not already tied to a full-time job). If you don’t have a full-time job, almost everyone you know will be asking you when you will be getting a job, if you already applied, and what your plan is.

After you pass, the CDR will contact you via email in a few days (took them 3 days for me). They will congratulate you and give you a bunch of information on using their online system (good email to bookmark). About 4 days after that, I received an email about the fees I would need to pay. If you don’t feel broke enough already, (after college, your internship and $200 for the test), you will after you see all the money you have to send to the CDR and your state. I had thought the $60 maintenance fee to the CDR for your registration card was a one time deal. I thought wrong! It’s $60 per year ($300 up front for the 5-year certification period) for them to maintain your portal for the CPE credits and what not. I will be posting another blog about how to set-up your learning plan (another complicated task that I was glad my internship had us practice prior!).

PA Licensure
Finding the licensure information for my state was very difficult! I didn’t realize that Dietitian-Nutritionists are listed under the State Board of Nursing (because that makes sense…not). Anyways, if you are in PA, follow the link below and find the link that says “Application for Dietitian-Nutritionist.” You will need to print, fill-out, and mail this form along with $45 to PA Board of Nursing. The form is pretty simple; however, you need to request verification of the registration letter from the CDR. I have a link below for that as well. It will ask for the email address of the person who needs it, in this case “st-nurse@state.pa.us,” which is at the top of the paper application. The CDR will then send an email with your letter. I also got a copy sent to myself, just to have it. Some states do not require their Dietitians to be licensed. If so, you have saved yourself $45.

2014-06-01 16.14.582014-06-02 14.46.30 One thing I definitely suggest you doing after you pass your test is go out, celebrate, and/or go on a vacation! You deserve it and it will give you a refreshed mind for when its time to set-up your learning plans, build your resume, and do some job searching. My vacation landed me right by the bay/beach. I love having this time to myself so I can do all the things I have been putting off (for studying purposes) like reading a good novel, painting, or just spending good quality time with my friends, family, and boyfriend 🙂

As always, good luck to those finishing up your internships or studying for the RD exam!

Links:
PA Licensure Application: http://www.dos.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/state_board_of_nursing/12515/licensure_information/572048
Verification from CDR:
https://secure.eatright.org/cgi-bin/lansaweb?procfun+prweb28+p28fn01+prd+eng
Additional Information about Licensure:
https://www.cdrnet.org/state-licensure


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Tips for Passing the RD Exam

Well, the next chapter of my RD journey is complete! I am now a Registered Dietetic Nutritionist (RDN)! It feels good to know I can finally get rid of the hundreds of index cards I made over the past few months. Now that I have passed, I have been getting the questions of “How was it? How long did you study? Was it what you expected?” These are the same questions I asked everyone else who took it too 🙂 I must say, it doesn’t feel real just yet. In just 1.5 hours I went from an intern (who graduated) to RDN. Anyways, let me get into what you have been looking for to begin with.

How long should I study?
I took my exam about 6.5 weeks after I finished my internship. You want to aim for 1-2 months of study time (or so I heard and went with). The first week, I got things together to study. I made index cards, set up a study schedule, relaxed from my internship, etc. I used Jean Inman and RD in a Flash to study from (For more information on study materials: Studying for the RD Exam). The second/third/fourth week, I dedicated about 2 hours in the morning and 1-2 hours at night to studying. I would focus on a single domain each week (Week 2: food science, Week 3: Disease states and MNT, etc). The fifth week, I bumped up my studying to about 4 hours a day. I wouldn’t sit for that whole block though. I would study for an hour, take a break, get coffee, study, go to work, study, etc. I would usually spend at least an hour at a time (takes time to focus and get started). To be honest, there were days I just didn’t get a chance to study because of family events, work, or other things going on. It is good to give yourself a break every now and then.

The days leading up to my exam, I re-read all of Jean Inman. I also re-wrote my notes (re-writing things helps me to remember better). Four days before my exam, I was in panic mode thinking I should post-pone my test. I kept focusing on all of the things I didn’t know and getting frustrated. I was worried I would fail and have to wait the 45 days to re-test. I was rating my knowledge at about an 75-80% (Not from any specific math equation). After speaking with another intern, and current RD, I stuck with my test day. She reminded me how much I do know, and that I know more than I think (that last part is especially true). My boyfriend also reminded me that if I failed, it’s only a test. Yeah, it is a pretty big test; however, it is just one test! I just had to keep reminding myself that I knew a lot and it was okay if I didn’t pass (the world wasn’t going to end). The last 2 days before my exam, I spent time reviewing the answer keys to tests and focusing on the concepts I needed work on. I spent about 8 hours each day studying like crazy!

This was a schedule that worked best for me. It is important to find the best way for you to study. I heard of other interns only taking 3 weeks to study with 8-hour study days. I heard of other interns taking a 4-5 weeks to study with 3-hour study days. Again, it is all about how you study as to what schedule will work best.

What is the Exam like?
The day of the exam, my stomach was doing flip-flops. Everything is so formal and rigid when you go in to test! Throughout the exam, I kept thinking “I am definitely failing!” I found out that this is a pretty natural response. As I was answering questions, I was surprised at how much I studied and how little was actually on the test (only about 40%). I was happy to realize that all of the information I was worried about not knowing wasn’t even on the exam! There was one point where it took a couple of seconds for the screen to move to the next question. I remember thinking, “that’s it, I failed.” My heart sunk until I saw the next question. It is definitely hard not to panic when you are taking it. Just remember to keep calm and take it one question at a time. I thought it was funny that the night before I felt like there was so much I didn’t know and after leaving the exam I was surprised at how over-prepared I felt!

Best Tips for the Exam
1. Take deep breaths between each question. I found myself holding my breath because I was so nervous!
2. Read each question twice! I tend to go through things too fast and miss important parts of the question. My strategy was to read each question and answers twice, pick out the key points of the question, pick the best answer, and re-read the question to make sure I was picking what they were looking for.
3. A lot of the questions end up with 2 answers that seem to fit. At this point, re-read the question and pin-point what they are looking for.
4. Go with your first gut answer. Try not to over-analyze things too much. Remember, this is an entry-level test!
5. Be confident in what you know. As I said, only about 40% of what I studied was on the exam. Goes to show how much you really know from all the schooling and internship!
6. Bring tissues! Whether you pass or not, you will probably need them. When I left the testing center, I burst into tears of happiness.

Hopefully, this helps you as you begin to study for your exam! Best of luck to all those who are RD eligible!